Baggett expansion

A worker at Baggett Trailers welds on a trailer. Photo by Anita Kilgore.

JACKSONVILLE — Jake Baggett, owner of Baggett’s Trailer Connection, will tell you that recent success at his manufacturing business is miraculous.   

“Our sales have increased a lot in the past couple of years, and we’re having trouble building trailers as fast as we need to,” Baggett said.

Now the company, which builds trailers for equipment, motorcycles and boats, is poised for growth. On Monday, Baggett and his family were joined by elected leaders and economic developers at a ground-breaking ceremony at the business, where he said a 7,000-square-foot building expansion will enable the company, which currently employs 12 people, to hire about 10 new workers.

Christopher Westley, professor of economics at Jacksonville State University wrote in an email that the immediate impact of the new jobs growth at the trailer manufacturer won’t be large enough to impact the unemployment rate, but it could be a sign of growth to come.

“It’s just too small a number. However, Baggett’s is responding to consumer demand for dirt bikes, motorcycles and other goods that may require trailers,” Westley wrote. “As long as demand for those goods continue, I’d expect Baggett’s addition to the local economy to grow in significance over time.”

Baggett’s is the third manufacturing company in the Jacksonville area to receive tax breaks and announce that they have plans to expand in recent months. Shelco Foundries in Jacksonville announced in February that it has plans to add 106 jobs, and Bear and Sons Cutlery, near Alexandria-Jacksonville Road, received tax breaks on new equipment it plans to purchase and use to hire six more people.

Red Etheredge, chairman of the Jacksonville Economic Development Committee, said local officials are focusing on helping local businesses secure tax breaks.

“It’s easier and less expensive to work with local industry rather than bringing new industry in,” Etheredge said.

Westley wrote that tax breaks can be an effective tool for economic development.

“It is an economic truism that if you want more of something, tax it less, and less of something, tax it more,” Westley said. 

The growth in Jacksonville is reflective of local jobs announcements by manufacturing companies across the county, said Don Hopper, Executive Director of the Calhoun County Economic Development Council. Hopper said recent analysis of jobs numbers revealed that more than 800 manufacturing jobs have been announced in Calhoun County over the past 18 months.

“I’m hoping there are others,” Hopper said.

Westley wrote that it is too early to measure the impact of the growth of manufacturing plants in Jacksonville, but added that “the addition of these plants to the local economy is extremely promising.”

Westley also wrote that despite some growth locally, manufacturing employment numbers are still below what they were in 2008 and that Alabama lags behind other Southern states in the ongoing economic recovery.

“It will take significant changes in the business culture of this state, and especially this region for these trends to change,” Westley wrote. “But it’s a step in the right direction.”

Baggett said his 16-year-old company has grown steadily since the recession ended, noting that last year his company produced 2,240 trailers, mostly for customers in Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama.

Staff writer Laura Gaddy: 256-235-3544. On Twitter @LGaddy_Star.